Flags of Our Fathers Study Guide

Chapter 7 – D-Day

The Marines arrive at Iwo Jima (or “Sulfur Island) on February 19th, 1945. The 28th Regiment, including the Easy Company, was ordered to land on Green Beach One, near Mount Suribachi. They were tasked to isolate the mountain before taking over. It was an hour since the first wave of Marines landed before any presence of the Japanese was felt: their strategy from Kuribayashi involved waiting for all of the Marines to arrive at the beach before they started attacking. Once the Japanese began, the Marines had no shelter to protect them. Dead bodies started clogging the beach and its shoreline, but those who remained standing continued on amidst the gunfire. They had to continue attacking even if their friends were dying around them, showing proof of the bravery and heroism of the Marines.

Easy Company’s first casualty was John Fredatovich. He was given blood transfusions by Doc Bradley and was put on the beach for evacuation. He helplessly lay on his cot as he watched the fighting around him. A lot of the Marines who were injured while fighting refused to get evacuated, instead opting to stay behind and fight alongside their comrades. The night after D-Day was the same, if not more devastating. Because of the dark, the Americans were extra careful. They started using names of American-made automobiles as passwords so they won’t get mistaken for a Japanese and get shot point-blank.

Notes: The anecdotes in the book greatly helped in painting a real picture of the heroism of those who fought in the island of Iwo Jima.

Chapter 8 – D-Day Plus One

The boys from Easy Company were greatly stressed as they spent the night on the western beaches of Iwo Jima. Mortar fire from the Japanese kept them up during the night. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions for the 28th regiment continued on advancing towards Mount Suribachi. The Easy Company was tasked to retrace their steps in order to provide a solid back up for the 2nd Battalion.

Don Ruhl, one of the most courageous men of the 3rd Platoon, charged Japanese soldiers and fought and killed some of them in person-to-person combat. He was not afraid to risk his life in order to drag a wounded soldier to safety. Later during the day, he crawls inside one of the enemy tunnels with Lieutenant Keith Wells to gather some woolen blankets for some of their wounded comrades. By the end of D-Day Plus One, a mile and a half of the island was controlled by the 4th and 5th Divisions. However, they had 3,500 casualties. The boys try to sleep as the night fell, but they were still under constant fire.

Notes: Bradley’s usage of the metaphor for Iwo Jima as the “madman’s haunted house” is his personal description of the horror and atrocities on the island.

Chapter 9 – D-Day Plus Two

American planes star bombing the island during the following morning. The Marines on the ground are hoping that tanks would arrive to help them out; instead, they become delayed by issues with refueling and rearming. Harry the Horse decides to charge without any of them at 8:30, 30 minutes late from their original plan. Lieutenant Keith Wells also decided to lead a charge, not ordering any of them to follow suit, but they do anyway. Don Ruhl gives his life by throwing himself on a grenade to save a soldier next to him.

Doc Bradley runs all over the place, tending to every wounded soldier that he comes across. He is an easy target for the Japanese because of the “Unit-3” first aid bag that he’s carrying around. By taking Doc out, he won’t be able to rush to his wounded allies. He earns a Navy Cross by pulling one of his fellow Marines to safety. The Marine was losing blood far too quickly to be moved immediately, so Doc had decided to tend to him in the middle of battle.

Lieutenant Ed Pennel gets injured when a shell explodes between his legs. He ends up lying in the middle of the battlefield until nighttime so he could be transferred on an offshore hospital ship. Lieutenant Keith Wells refused to get evacuated despite his injury from mortar fire. He turns over the command of the 3rd Platoon to Platoon Sergeant Ernest Boots Thomas. Boots Thomas didn’t waste any time to showcase his bravery by running back and forth amidst tank fire. He ended up identifying a weak spot in the defensive line of Suribachi.

Notes: Bradley’s usage of the metaphor for Iwo Jima as the “madman’s haunted house” is his personal description of the horror and atrocities on the island.

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